In the mailbag, the topic of salutations in letters comes up at least a few times a week. Recently Chris wrote to ask a question I had not heard before:
If a person’s full name ends in Jr. or Sr., should I format it as "Dear Bob Smith, Sr.:" or "Dear Bob Smith, Sr:" (without the period/full stop after Sr)?
The answer: According to the rules of letter etiquette, neither is correct.
In a greeting, we do not use Jr., Sr., M.D., Esq., or other abbreviated terms after the name. Also, generally we do not use both the first and last name. So in Chris’s example, the correct salutation is:
Formal: Dear Mr. Smith:
Informal: Dear Bob:
The other issue Chris’s question raises is whether we can use a period/full stop before a colon. Yes, we can. Example:
Here is what will happen at 6 p.m.:
I cannot think of any situation in which a salutation would end with a period/full stop, however. That is why I used a sentence as an example.
Chris, I hope this answer helps.
Other search spellings: puncutation, slautuation, slautation, saluation.